15 Fascinating Books About Animals

We share a planet with many fascinating creatures. How easy it can be in the overwhelming hustle and bustle of humanity to forget that there is more living in this world than the mere bipdel mammals we are. There’s no shortage of amazing animals, big and small, land-dwelling or sea-fairing. And contrary to what the zoo may suggest, these animals are capable of just as much as humans despite most not having thumbs or vocalization of speech. They experience similar emotions, communities, and sensations that one might not expect. There’s quite a bit we know about animals past their social media appeal. Here are a few books that serve up just how much we know about the animal kingdom and its unique quirks and relatable actions.

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

written by Frans de Waal
Published in 2016
352 pages

It’s easy to get lost in the simplistic allure of animals and not consider that they have some intelligence that goes beyond where to find food and what’s the best climate. Frans de Waal’s classic book digs into the complex and cunning cleverness we may not know of animals around the world. From the language of birds to the memories of chimpanzees to the tool capabilities of octopi, there’s plenty of unique facts to make anyone think twice about what these many species are capable of, mentally and physically. The aquarium will never seem the same again once you read what an octopus can do with coconuts.

Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals

written by Jonathan Balcombe
Published in 2010
242 pages

There was a time when we thought of animals as little more than mindless creatures, devoid of deeper feelings and thoughts. We know now that’s not the case as research on the subject of animal intelligence has come quite a long way. Animal behaviorist Jonathan Balcombe explores in this book just how much has been discovered about nature’s creatures that are not as bound by the wild and untamed world of nature as we might have thought before. His book documents the various research discoveries of various animals in the realms of emotion, problem-solving, and moral judgment. There are plenty of stories and anecdotes Balcombe delivers that gives the book a more personal appeal.

Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel

written by Carl Safina
Published in 2015
461 pages

From around the globe, different stories are shared of how animals react to changes in their environment. In Kenya, the Amboseli National Park becomes a place of great danger for the many elephants trying to ward off the encroaching poachers and the natural threat of drought. At the Yellowstone National Park, a pack of wolves tries to carry on after a great tragedy befalls their collective. And in the Pacific Northwest, a colony of killer whales with great contentment and peace in the clear blue waters. Carl Safina paints an astonishing portrait of animals that have to deal with changes and learn to work together, dealing with tough emotions, and trying to seek joy wherever it may lie.

When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals

written by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Published in 1994
320 pages

For an emotionally moving experience, When Elephants Weep compiles over 100 years of animal research to reveal the fascinating mental workings of nature’s most intriguing animals. Sometimes the squirrels are just so excited they dance and the gorillas are just so shy they hide their faces. The book covers these many emotions in various chapters spanning love, joy, anger, fear, shame, compassion, and loneliness. Some of it is natural but much of these emotions have been discovered in how we treat them as human beings, which includes the acts of hunting. It’s an intoxicating book that is brimming with anecdotes and insights which will reshape your entire worldview on just what is going through the minds of various creatures.

The Truth About Animals

written by Lucy Cooke
Published in 2017
400 pages

While there is a lot of ground that has been covered in the areas of animal research, there’s still so much left to learn about animals big and small. Lucy Cooke’s book on the subject of animal secrets is sure to surprise a few who didn’t know that certain animals can get drunk or cheat on each other. There’s plenty of fascinating material present to convince one that there’s more to animals than their mere wild innocence. Even the elements of birth may come as a shocker when you hear about where eels are born and just how a bear takes shape after being birthed into the world. It’s a book that is equally parts compelling as it is uproariously hilarious with its comical reveals about animal traits.


written by Barbara Natterson
Published in 2013
416 pages

Cardiologist Barbara Natterson answers some of the most unorthodox questions one would have about animals. The inspiration for the book came from a consultation at the Los Angeles Zoo where it was discovered that monkeys can experience heart failure. With this discovery, it led to Barbara asking other such thought-provoking questions about the health of animals. Is it possible that some animals overheat and fain? Can they get breast cancer? Can gorillas get depression? Do reindeer trip out on mushrooms? These questions and many more are answered in this book that finds a surprising amount of overlap with humans and animals when it comes to health concerns.

Animal Wise

written by Virginia Morell
Published in 2013
304 pages

Virginia Morell is a science writer that takes a deep dive into the world of animals with their intelligent and emotional development. Taking a look at animals both domestic and wild, Morell makes some keen discoveries that are as intriguing as they are engaging. And this goes far beyond the more cute and cuddly animals. Think ants and their ability to teach one another. Think rats who enjoy the sensations of a good tickle. Even moths may have a memory of the bugs they used to be. This book digs into such mesmerizing information while also giving us some introspection about how our own species came to adopt such behaviors and cognition.

Animalkind: Remarkable Discoveries about Animals

written by Ingrid Newkirk and Gene Stone
Published in 2020
304 pages

In one of the most updated books on the subject of how incredible animals can be, Ingrid Newkirk and Gene Stone explore the depths of just how much we really know about animals beyond their basic traits. There are answers to questions we might not have considered before. Do fish sing? Can geese fall in love? Is it possible for elephants to effectively talk to each other with just their trunks? These topics are not only explored but are also given a human connection in how they relate to what we rely on various species of animal and how it shapes their behaviors.

The Inner Life of Animals

written by Peter Wohlleben
Published in 2017
288 pages

Wohlleben’s book probes into questions of animals that range from puzzling inquiries into the inner workings of the mind to the broader questions of existence. This thoughtful exploration leads to such interesting facts being revealed that’ll make one completely rethink the prospect of wild animals. This includes such fascinating discoveries as the planning of bees, the nightmares of hedgehogs, the adultery of magpies, and the tobogganing of crows. Creatures big and small have all their secrets divulged in this tell-all book of animal observations that are anything but predictable for how capable non-human creatures can be in nature. You’ll also learn what massive necessity wasps play in our world.

Great Adaptations

written by Kenneth Catania
Published in 2020
224 pages

Kenneth Catania unearths unique discoveries of talents among animals that may not be as well known. Many mysteries are solved of the behaviors relating to all sorts of creatures, ranging from snakes to wasps. The truth is revealed behind the star-nosed mole and just what purpose its odd little nose serves. Eels can use their electricity to manipulate the actions of other animals. Snakes are cunning enough to convince their prey to walk right into their mouths with clever traps. Catania’s book not only showcases these hidden talents of magnificent creatures but relates them to our own understanding of the brain as well.

Animals in Translation

written by Catherine Johnson
Published in 2005
358 pages

Catherine Johnson has teamed up with autism advocate Temple Grandin to peel back the feelings behind the cute faces of creatures around the world. Both of them draw upon their many years of experience with animals to make some groundbreaking discoveries. What’s most incredible about this book is how Grandin in particular uses her social experience with autism to find a common connection among animals, finding a correlation in sensitivity that need not require language for communication. Think of it as an autism theory take on the nature of animal behavior science as a better means of trying to connect the wild world of creatures to our own domesticated civilization of perceiving mental health.

The Emotional Lives of Animals

written by Marc Bekoff
Published in 2007
256 pages

Marc Bekoff is an award-winning scientist that has compiled his years of communication studies among animals into a comprehensive guide on their emotional nature. The many aspects of joy, empathy, grief, embarrassment, anger, and love that animals experience are covered in numerous stories. Bekoff writes his stories with an air of both amusement and earnest to make his stories relatable while at the same time stressing that there’s a lot we have left to learn about the world and its many extraordinary creatures of all environments. He doesn’t just push the existence of emotion in animals but makes a stern argument for how we need to treat them far better with this new knowledge.

Pets on the Couch

written by Nicholas H. Dodman
Published in 2016
304 pages

Though it surely doesn’t take much convincing that our domesticated animals are capable of emotional responses, there’s still quite a bit to learn beyond just the big eyes and playful spirits of cats, dogs, and even birds. Acclaimed veterinarian Nicholas Dodman takes a look at the psychiatry behind the animals we share our more personal lives with and makes some keen observations. This includes epilepsy in dogs, OCD in cats, and anxiety disorders for birds that can result in the plucking of feathers. With these studies in mind, a case is made for how animals require just as much mental healthcare as they do physical.

Animal Madness: Inside Their Minds

written by Laurel Braitman
Published in 2014
384 pages

Laurel Braitman approaches the subject of animal mental health with both intelligence and humor in this revered book on the subject, noted as remarkable in Psychology Today and Publishers Weekly. The book covers a wide range of animal psychology from dogs to elephants in how even the largest creature can have issues of the mind. Going even further, Animal Madness covers the necessity for recovery of mental issues and just how that can be accomplished with the research available. Braitman approaches the material with great care to make sure the content in insightful yet powerful enough to make the reader take seriously such questioning of depression among dogs.

Clever as a Fox

written by Sonja Yoerg
Published in 2001
228 pages

The animal kingdom is far more than a series of impulses and instincts, contrary to the notion that they may be mindless machines bound by the wild. Doctor Sonja Yoerg digs into the science of animal intelligence and discovers just what makes some of them so smart. Ever wonder dolphins have such an impeccable mind or why bees are some of the smartest of insects? This book will divulge the science behind how so many animals are far more cunning than we give them credit for, including asking the tougher questions of how we treat certain animals differently because of these traits.

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